Consisting of two members of Morphine (one of my top 5 bands of all time) – Dana Colley (saxophones, vocals) and Jerome Deupree (drums) – and their pal Jeremy Lyons (vocals, guitar, bass, banjo, and more), Vapors of Morphine are reclaiming low rock and bringing it back when we need it most in this time of 24-hour news cycle cacophony.
A New Low opens with a short instrumental and then a traditional Tuareg song, “Renoveau / Daman N’Diaye” (and a second version of it near the end of the record). The inclusion of Tuareg music on this (with vocals by Boubacar Diabate) is a great choice and shows the band’s love for low-fi world music as well.
Their new version of Morphine’s “Shiela” is great, and slightly darker than the original. “Baby’s on Fire” has some of Colley’s best electric saxophone work. I still don’t know how he gets those sounds out of those things. Their take on Morphine’s “The Other Side” turns it from a song of lament and regret to one of paranoia.
Dana Colley often plays two saxophones (one tenor, one baritone) at once, but it sounds like he’s playing four on “Sombre Reptiles.” “If” is a great example of low rock as Lyons sings, “If the ocean was whiskey or full of gin, would you lead me away or push me in?” and Deupree drums are cooly reverbed and Colley’s saxophones do a creepy crawl through your stereo.
“Red Apple Juice” is an old Appalachian standard, and the band does a great job with it, turning it into a near goth-country song with Lyons’ banjo leading the way.
Colley sings leads on “Souvenir,” another great Morphine track. He also goes blissfully bonkers with his saxophone work on it by the end. “Rowdy Blues” reminds me of Treat Her Right tracks, which is always a good thing (and a natural progression since THR’s Mark Sandman went on to form Morphine with Colley and Deupree).
The album ends with the instrumental “Interstellar Overdrive,” in which Dana Colley plays a spaceship. The track is proof that the band could go full-blown psychedelic if they wanted.
A New Low is proof that low rock has returned and is just as good as it’s always been.
Keep your mind open.
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